Goin' Rogue

So today was the last day of a class/playgroup-thing that Finn and I go to. And I can't say I'm not relieved. Not that it wasn't great to get together with other babies who reach all their milestones the day our German instructor thinks they should, and not that I won't miss learning little activities and games that will help Finn reach the aforementioned milestones and not get too far behind the crawling-in-a-straight-line and eating-three-meals-a-day babies, but ... 

Here's how a typical class activity would go.  All the babies lay on their towels on the mat in front of the mamas, and all the mamas shake a little toy on the right side of the babies, and then all the babies roll over towards the toy. All the OTHER babies (did I mention they're all German?). Finn would look at the toy, look at me, look back at the toy, with an expression that clearly said,"what, do you want that toy? Why don't you get it? Do I have to do ALL the work around here?" He would then roll in the other direction. 

And do I have to tell you that at the end of class,when all the other babies lay nicely on their towels while their mamas rub their scented, oiled hands across their compliant bodies, learning to soothe the various ailments of the infant child, my infant child won't stay on his back for even a quarter of a second, not long enough to begin a massage, not even long enough to get the cap off the oil bottle.  

And this is what happened today. The studio has an inclined gym mat, about 6 feet long, that's supposed to help beginning crawlers, since they're going downhill. Not that the other babies really need such an elementary device, expert crawlers that they are. The mamas take turns placing their babies at the top of the incline, and then dragging a toy in front of the babies to get them to crawl down, finally rewarding them with the toy once they reach the base. So it's our turn, and I place Finn at the top, and  place the toy just out of reach. He reaches out one hand, doesn't get the toy, and so promptly flips over onto his back, looking up at me and grinning. OK, cute, but, we're supposed to be making our way down the incline, so I shake that toy like there's no tomorrow, trying to get Finn to flip back onto his tummy and come get it. He cranes his head around, sees the toy, gets excited, and tries to roll and spin himself to the toy all at once. Having practically done a back somersault he's now on his tummy, toy in hand, lying horizontally across the mat. I try to straighten him out, gently taking the toy and placing it out of reach again.  Finn reaches out for the toy, starts to pull himself in its direction, and then realizes that the fastest way down this incline is to roll.  And so he rolls and slides, kicking one of those German-straight-line-crawlers in the process, and lands at the bottom. First he looks at me and grins again, then he looks up and sees that he passed the toy on the way down, and starts to cry. 

I feel a need to note that even though Finn may be way behind all those German babies when it comes to crawling and laying still and general obedience, this was, I think, the first time he has cried in class.  The other babies cry only about 50 times each session. Not that I'm counting. I'm just saying ...  

Oh, my little rogue roller.  Don't ever let us make you crawl in a straight line.


Things I love ...

1. Getting fresh corn on the cob and organic tomatoes in our weekly farm delivery ... in December!
fresh corn on the cob!

tomatoes from our farm
2. Finding King Arthur Flour in a fancy grocery store! Woohoo! Just in time for Christmas baking ... I'm not normally very brand-loyal, but after working *for* KAF for several years and working *with* their flour for longer than that, all I can say is I am VERY happy to have found some here in Hong Kong! We've bought a countertop oven from an American who was leaving, and now I'm good to go (albeit it will be 9 cookies at a time ...)

3. This isn't my love, but Finn's. He has fallen in love with this ducky in the last week, and wants it with him everywhere. Who knew a duck on a string could hold such appeal? finn's friend the ducky


Badge in one hand, Breastpump in the Other ...

This morning I listened to this interview, with Kate Braestrom, on Speaking of Faith, one of my favorite radio shows—it almost always moves, inspires and intrigues me. Kate, a UU chaplain with the game wardens in Maine, ministers both to the wardens in their often difficult job and to the people the wardens serve, most often families in a moment of loss.

Kate tells a story, in this interview and in her book, Here if You Need Me, about a young woman who was abducted, raped, murdered and left in the woods. The wardens were involved, along with numerous other agencies, in the recovery of the body and investigation of the case. During the telling of this tragic story, Kate talks about miracles and the nature of providence, and our tendency to only see God's hand at work in situations that turn out well.

She says, “A miracle to me can't just be something that was providential, that everything had to line up just right in order for it to happen because bad things happen that way too. Really bad things happen that way too. And evil people have uncanny luck sometimes... If I look at it from another perspective, I don't look for God or God's work in magic or in tricks or in saying 'this is what I want' and then I get it. I look for God's work always in how people love each other, in just the acts of love that I see around me.” 

Kate goes on to describe that in this situation, the place to look for love was in the hearts of the officers and wardens who did their best to find the young woman and make things right for her family, knowing, of course, that they really couldn't ever make things right, that they couldn't undo what had happened. In particular, the primary detective on this case was a young woman named Anna Love. She combed through the information, found a suspect, interviewed him repeatedly, interviewed witnesses, and eventually closed the case, all within just three days.

Meanwhile, she had a newborn baby at home and so was ducking into the lieutenant's office periodically, pumping and sending bottles of breastmilk home to her husband to feed the baby. Kate wrote, "If ours were a sensible culture, little girls would play with Anna Love action figures, badge in one hand, breast pump in the other."  

She goes on to say, “There are these paradoxes that you can't fix or make fit together. You can't shave away the edges so that they match. You just have to let them sit there as separate things. And one of them was here. On one hand you had this terrible event that was not right and not just and was cruel ... And on the other hand, you have all of these guys responding. All of these guys motivated by love. And one of them is Anna Love, who is a breastfeeding mother.  And she's the one who nails this guy. And, you know, it's not as if all of that fixes Christina's death; it doesn't. It's just that they both exist in the same time and the same space. Which, I guess, it isn't enough and it is enough.”

I'm sure that for Christina's mother, all the love and help in the world isn't enough and can never be enough. But for the rest of us, who also have to live in this world where things like Christina's death happen, it may just have to be enough. I'm posting this story because it continues the thoughts I've shared lately about the importance of presence, of offering our presence as at least one aspect of a response to poverty and need.  It may seem ludicrous to claim that a moment's full attention is worth offering a beggar, is maybe as important as offering money or food. But in this first week of Advent--the days leading up to Christmas, when Christians celebrate the Incarnation--we have to take seriously the idea of presence. If the Incarnation teaches us nothing else, it reminds us that God came to be with us, is still with us. And we, in turn, are to be with others, badge in one hand, breastpump in the other.